You’re the kid. In bed in your pajamas. It’s a dark night and you can’t sleep because the sound of every creek in the house is keeping you awake, each minute sound amplified in your brain as if it was a crack of thunder. The moonlight floods your open bedroom window. The breeze is cool, and nice. But when you catch movement out of the corner of your eye and then go to the window… wait, was that it again over there? You feel fear and doubt…
That’s what Kælan Mikla sounds like.
Every year that we go to Airwaves there’s that one band. That completely and totally unexpected local band we’ve never heard of before, who just blows us away the very first time we hear them. In 2015 for me that was Kælan Mikla’s set at Gamla Bíó. Admittedly it helped that I took what I knew was guaranteed to be my best photo of the trip, but the music… the haunting music played that all-female three piece. My initial impression of the band was a post-punk-bordering-on-darkwave-meets-Donnie-Darko fusion, an emotional vibe that the members all exemplified on stage as well. They were the full modern post-punk package. (♠) They had the sound. They had the look. They were nearly flawless during their 30 minute set.
But don’t be fooled. Kælan Mikla isn’t a one trick sonic pony. They explore the outer edges of post-punk, with a haunting instrumental opener, “Kælan Mikla,” followed by no wave at it’s most angsty best on “Myrkrið Kallar,” then capped off with a pair of classic doomy post-punk numbers, “Líflát” and “Sýnir.” But then things change in tone for a bit on the flip side, which opens with downtempo new wave tune, “Upphaf,” a song that comes awfully close to seeing the sun just peek up over the horizon and start to warm the cold and dark environment the band created on the first side. But then “Kalt” kicks in and you starting thinking, “oh, back to the no wave then,” but here’s the thing – it’s too good to be no wave, moving instead into that clinical early 1980s synthwave, music that’s so cold it’ll make your breath freeze. “Óráð” moves us back to the darker, more emotional side of things, and then we close out with the pure heavy dread-fest of “Glimmer Og Aska” with it’s ending that sounds like a slowing heartbeat… I kind of feel like the album has a flow to it that is similar to an ocean wave, but i just can’t seem to effectively describe why. Sometimes the emotional and logical half of the brain fail to connect and your eyeballs just shot “TILT”.
The vinyl version of the album is a hand-numbered edition of 500, though there seem to still be copies available online (mostly from Europe) for reasonable prices. You can also listen to all the songs for free HERE, as well as buy a digital download. At the very least, check out their video for “Kalt”.
(♠) The band members refer to their style as “poetry-punk” and “no wave”. The album’s second song, “Myrkrið Kallar,” could definitely qualify as no wave, but the rest of the album is so well played that it falls out side the no wave bubble. I’d buy poetry-punk 100%, though.